Dining Room on the Garden

Pierre Bonnard, 1934 – 1935
Dining Room on the Garden, Pierre Bonnard
Dining Room on the Garden, zoomed in
126.8 cmDining Room on the Garden scale comparison135.3 cm

Dining Room on the Garden is a Post-Impressionist Oil on Canvas Painting created by Pierre Bonnard from 1934 to 1935. It lives at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. The image is used according to Educational Fair Use, and tagged Windows. SourceSee Dining Room on the Garden in the Kaleidoscope

Pierre Bonnard painted 60 dining-room scenes in the two decades before his death in 1947, and they are a strange, discomforting collection. Early in his career, Bonnard painted with a group of artists called Les Nabis, or the prophets who explored a liminal world that blended fauvist color with the symbolist fascination with ancient cultic religion and metaphor. While Les Nabis disbanded in 1900 after their last show at the avant-garde Galerie Vollard, a thread of dreamlike instability wound itself through Bonnard’s entire career.

Let’s get formal. Dining Room on the Garden features a table, set with fruit dishes, pitchers, and a vase of flowers. A window opens the composition to a landscape with trees overlooking a wide body of water. A woman in a collared dress surveys the scene. And yet, nearly every aspect of this composition, which could easily describe a multitude of western domestic scenes, Bonnard inverts in some weird, uncomfortable way.

Bonnard’s brushstrokes are messy and irregular, like he scratched a dry brush around the image. The colors are spectacularly surreal, with a neon purple tablecloth, glowing gold walls and an ominously dark blue sky. The entire composition is just off a one-point perspective. Picture a Wes Anderson camera angle but off by five degrees. And most worrying is our figure. Usually a human being acts as the focus of an artwork, but this woman disappears, her face almost entirely blending into the background. She’s a ghost.

What were you up to Mr. Bonnard?

Reed Enger, "Dining Room on the Garden," in Obelisk Art History, Published September 20, 2017; last modified October 31, 2022, http://www.arthistoryproject.com/artists/pierre-bonnard/dining-room-on-the-garden/.

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